-  Thursday 01 October 2020

Hurry up on polls, UN tells Nepal

 -  Gulf Times

KATHMANDU: The United Nations mission in Nepal yesterday told the Himalayan nation’s government to get a move on and organise scheduled elections crucial to the impoverished country’s future.

Under the terms of a peace deal struck late last year between the interim government and Maoist rebels, Nepal is supposed to hold elections by mid-June for a body that will redraw the constitution.

But the head of the United Nations Mission In Nepal (UNMIN), Ian Martin, said the deadline could be missed, leaving the country stuck in political limbo and the peace process exposed to more pressure.

“I would urge the political parties to heed the very timely call of the chief electoral commissioner for urgent decisions and action in approving much needed legislation,” Martin told reporters.

He said Nepal’s election commissioner had “made very clear that urgent action is necessary to allow for the passage of legislation, if the deadline is going to be feasible”.

The constituent assembly elections will be closely watched, with embattled King Gyanendra facing the end of his reign and his country being declared a republic.

Nepal’s government and former Maoist rebels must improve conditions at camps housing thousands of the group’s fighters as part of a peace deal between the two sides, the top United Nations envoy said yesterday.

“What I am not satisfied with is the conditions for those living at the cantonment sites, in terms of shelter, sanitation and access ... water and electricity,” Martin told reporters.

“It will have a serious impact on our work if there are not rapid improvements,” Martin said after a weekend visit to two camps in west Nepal where UN monitors are registering thousands of Maoist fighters and their arms.

A decade-old insurgency against the monarchy killed more than 13,000 people, before last year’s peace agreement.
Both sides invited the UN to supervise arms management before the former guerrillas join an interim administration in the run-up to this year’s elections for an assembly that will rewrite the country’s constitution.

Martin said the initial work of registering the Maoist fighters and locking up their weapons in all seven main cantonment sites was expected to be over by Friday.

The arms will be locked in containers watched by UN monitors. The Maoists will keep the keys, and the army will also store an equal number of weapons before the election set for June.

On Sunday, the Himalayan nation’s election commission asked the ruling alliance to quickly prepare electoral laws or risk missing the poll deadline.

“We have completed arms registration in Kailali and Surkhet districts in west Nepal, bringing the total number of cantonments completed to five. During this week, we will complete registration of weapons in two remaining cantonments in east Nepal and test the installation of 24-hour closed-circuit surveillance,” Martin said.

He however, did not disclose the number of fighters or weapons that have been registered so far, saying he will do so only after the full completion of the process.

The UN also said it will start screening Maoist fighters to check if they were recruited after May 2006, when the Maoists declared a cease-fire following the overthrow of King Gyanendra’s government, or if they are under the age of 18.

The UN has already made it clear that anyone under the age of 18 will not be treated as a Maoist fighter.
In January, Human Rights Watch accused the Maoists of continuing to recruit children into their fighting force. It also said Maoists systematically used children during their decade-long insurgency, which left nearly 15,000 people dead.

Registration of the Maoist fighters and weapons began on January 17 but has moved slower than expected due to wrangling between the UN monitors and the Maoists over allegation of underage cadres.

The Maoists say they have a 35,000-strong fighting force, but the figure has been widely disputed by experts and analysts.

Gulf Times

Other articles by reporter Gulf Times

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